“Europe has had an explosion of new products since EU approval of stevia,” said David Turner, global food and drink analyst at Mintel.
Europe accounted for 25% of global product launches containing stevia in 2012, Mintel data shows.
But Turner told FoodNavigator that if growth is to continue, European manufacturers must learn from the US and follow the shift towards stevia blends to replace sugar instead of just stevia.
“It’s the US who tested the blends. In Europe, they went full hog pretty much first of all with full stevia replacement,” he said.
Stevia blends: Better taste and consumer benefits
“Rather than completely sugar-free, products that use stevia blends seem to be the ones that are succeeding. There is not much after taste and you have the consumer benefit of it being lower in calories,” Turner said.
Tropicana’s Trop50 brand – that has 50% less sugar and calories – has done especially well in Europe, he said.
“In Europe, the biggest successes are not sugar-free, it’s low-calorie,” he said.
Drinks format holds ‘biggest commercial potential’
Drinks is the largest sector for stevia in Europe - across all product types, Turner said, and also represents the “biggest commercial opportunity” in the short-term, especially non-alcoholic beverages.
“Particularly in mainland Europe consumers want to try drinks with stevia. There are really strong levels of interest,” Turner said.
Mintel data suggests that 55% of consumer in Germany and 45% in France would try a low-calorie, low-sugar carbonated drink with an alternative sweetener like stevia.
Don’t forget table tops
“Europe can also learn from the US on table top formats too,” Turner said.
In the US table top sweeteners represented 40% of new product development for 2012. But in Europe, NPD for table top stevia was only 29%, he said.
The most popular table top stevia format in the US among 18-24 year olds is the tablet dispensers, he said, and while Europe has these products, manufacturers are not specifically targeting consumers.
While Europe accounted for a quarter of global new product launches containing stevia, Asia saw the most launches – representing half of all global developments. North America represented 15% and Latin America 9%.